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Diocese attorneys push back on Nebraska abuse subpoenas

Posted: 2:09 PM, May 03, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-03 19:09:40Z
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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office is still waiting for Roman Catholic officials to turn over sexual abuse records ordered in sweeping subpoenas about two months ago.

Attorneys for the dioceses of Omaha and Lincoln said the institutions wanted to comply with the February subpoenas issued to more than 400 Catholic churches, schools and other groups as part of a state investigation into clergy sex abuse. The subpoenas came after Attorney General Doug Peterson asked Nebraska’s three Catholic dioceses to voluntarily turn over four decades of child sexual abuse records.

The only documents that haven’t been released include psychiatric evaluations of alleged perpetrators, medical records and confidential settlement agreements, according to the diocese attorneys.

Patrick Flood, an attorney for the Archdiocese of Omaha, told a Lincoln judge Thursday that they couldn’t release the records without a court order.

Evaluations and medical records are protected by federal privacy laws, added Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor of the Omaha Archdiocese.

Both dioceses sued in March to have the state’s subpoenas quashed, saying they were too broad, cost potentially millions of dollars to fulfill and carried deadlines that were impossible to meet.

Flood said the demand to release the documents in just three days was “a ridiculous request.”

The case has been put on hold while the dioceses and the state Attorney General’s Office attempt to work the issue out.

Assistant Attorney General Ryan Post said it’s disappointing that the dioceses’ attorneys view their investigation as government overreach. Post sought to have the lawsuit dismissed in the Thursday hearing.

Most Catholic institutions complied with the subpoenas, which Post said serves as evidence that it’s possible to do.

Kyle and Lauren O’Donnell, a Lincoln couple that attended the hearing, hope the attorney general’s investigation leads to justice for victims.

Kyle O’Donnell, who has belonged to several parishes, said he’s defended the church in the past, but no longer trusts its leaders.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Lauren O’Donnell said.